With 2021’s Cannes Grand Prix win on its back, Compartment No. 6 brings to life a self-reflective, alcohol-filled drama. Establishing an unlikely friendship between a Finnish student and a Russian miner, Laura (Seidi Haarla) and Ljoha (Yuriy Borisov) are both on their own independent journeys towards Murmansk, an arctic city in northwestern Russia.
After leaving her girlfriend Irina (Dinara Drukarova) behind, Laura begins her route across Russia to Murmansk to see the petroglyphs. What was originally a planned trip for them both, ends up becoming a solo trip for Laura as Irina becomes caught up in work. Laura’s passion and excitement to see the petroglyphs, however, overrule the absence of Irina. Ljoha is a slightly mysterious, flirty alcoholic who is on his way to the Murmansk area for work. Both Ljoha and Laura have very different personalities, but are thrown together when they have to share the same train compartment.
Along the way, they cross paths with some interesting characters, all fueling their drive to reach their end destination. Laura has a lack of enthusiasm for Ljoha at first, but this feeling is beaten once the two accept they won’t be in each other’s company for long. They make the most of their time acquainted by visiting the train restaurant, sitting separately at first, but progressing into having a glass of champagne together toward the end of the ride.
Laura and Irina’s relationship seems to be at the heart of the story. But, it slowly becomes apparent that this trip is all about Laura confronting her past. Her meetings with strangers, and brief familiarity with Ljoha, allow Laura to rediscover what really matters in life. She becomes content with her past, and recognizes how to escape in order to live in the present. The eagerness she holds to see the petroglyphs proves to herself early on that no matter what is in her way, nothing can hold her back from doing what she loves.
When presented with a film that’s so heavily prompted by the feeling of freedom, it’s hard not to become self-observant once the end credits roll. Director Juho Kuosmanen proposes that we should have “the ability to accept [our] limitations”. We have the option to make informed choices of where we want to go in life, which train we take, but we don’t have full control over who we meet and where our end destination will be. Compartment No. 6 puts plenty into perspective.
While voyaging through Russia, we’re enlightened by the charming cities and towns that the country has to offer, in magnificent 35mm. Kuosmanen really strives for that nostalgic feeling across the entire runtime, and it works. That warm feeling you get when you’re sitting in the window seat on the train, looking out across new horizons, thinking to yourself “life is beautiful” — Compartment No. 6 creates exactly that. It’s hard to believe this is only Kuosmanen’s second feature. With a lot of laughs, and a clear, driven narrative, Compartment No. 6 is completely unmissable. Haista Vittu!
For more information on Compartment No.6 and other films playing at the London Film Festival, check out their website.
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